Requiem of the Human Soul

The human race is on trial. At stake… Its continued existence

The face of 22nd century warfare… happening today

According to the American military, 23 Afghan civilians were killed in February by a group of people sitting at a console in Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.  How could that happen?  Because these people were operating the Predator drones that have caused such controversy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Predator drones: heralding the face of 22nd century warfare

Look out,world… this is the way warfare is going to be conducted in the future as increasingly advanced technology allows more sophisticated interfaces to be developed.  The logic is powerful.  Why should you risk the lives of your own people when you can accomplish the same ends by technology?  It’s the same logic that leads to the use of robots when possible in examining and disarming suspected terrorist bombs.

But, sensible as the logic may be, we’re going to enter a world where the lives and deaths of civilians will ultimately be decided by the cost/benefit trade-offs of programmers working away in the abstract world of mathematics, completely divorced from the reality of the ground.

In my book, Requiem of the Human Soul, there’s a scene that portrays the face of 22nd century warfare.  The troops fighting the terrorists are called GE troopers, (standing for GALT  Enforcement – a 22nd century global treaty to limit human aggression by genetic means).  They’re fighting the Rejectionists, people who reject this global treaty on religious grounds.  And, plus ca change, the fighting is still going in the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, this time in a little community called Pannakot, in the Chitral Valley.  But the GE troopers aren’t really there – they use virtual reality units (or VRUs) which they’re operating from the comfort of Nashville, Tennessee.

And it’s a lot more comfortable when you’re fighting from your home town.  As one of the troopers tells the book’s hero, Eusebio:

Sure, pal, that’s where the whole 4-21 regiment is located.  We have a giant virtual reality center outside Nashville.  We’re all there right now, in our skins, hunting down Rejos in the Chitral Valley.  It sure beats doing it in person.  At the end of the day, we go have a drink with the guys, enjoy our kids at home.  I’ve got a six-year old.  I wouldn’t miss him growing up for anything.

Eusebio, is there with the GE troopers in the Chitral Valley virtually, wearing a VRU himself.  He’s on a mission to see what is really going on in the sanitized world of genetically enhanced humans.  And what he sees disgusts him.  It’s the face of warfare in the 22nd century.

Click here to read the excerpt from the book in a pdf file.

May 29, 2010 Posted by | The 22nd century | , , , | 1 Comment

Avatar and Requiem: the comparison

A number of people have told me that Requiem of the Human Soul reminded them of the movie Avatar.  So I finally got up my courage, put on the 3D glasses and went to see for myself.

I loved the special effects, and like so many others, I got caught up in the Pocahontas-style storyline.  But now, what’s that all got to do with Requiem?  Well, of course there’s the obvious fact that in the late 22nd century world of Requiem, everybody uses virtual reality in the same way they do in Avatar.  My vision of 22nd century virtual reality is similar to James Cameron’s, but in my technology, you put on a kind of diving suit with millions of little electrodes, so when you want to move your avatar, you don’t just think about, you actually move your hand or foot and the avatar’s hand or foot moves with you.   Here’s a link to the novel website that describes Requiem‘s virtual reality in more detail.

But, I think when people compare Requiem to Avatar, it’s the vision of the world-spirit, the animistic sense of connectedness that they’re talking about. Avatar offers a beautifully blended metaphor of a plugged-in universe, where technology, environment and spirituality all fuse together.   I’ve published a post on the companion blog to this, Tyranny of the Prefrontal Cortex, calledAvatar: A 21st Century Aspirational Cosmology,” where I suggest that part of Avatar‘s popularity arises from it offering an easy techno solution to our modern spiritual longing.

In Requiem, though, things aren’t quite as easy.  The Nobel Prize winning neuroscientist, Julius Schumacher, discovers that the human soul is interconnected through our DNA with all other life on earth.  It’s a moment when science and spirituality have the potential of coming together in a way where they can infuse meaning in each other.  Here’s how his protege, Brian Chang, describes it:

“You know Julius’ analogy about the soul, how it’s like an orchestra?” Brian started speaking after lots of humming and herring and clearing his throat nervously.   “You know, how over five hundred million years of evolution, as life on earth began branching off into plants, reptiles, mammals, a shared harmony existed between the DNA of every living object on earth?”

“And as creatures became more diverse, the harmony between their DNA and the DNA of other creatures became more complex, but it never disappeared.”   Brian’s voice was taking on more authority with every sentence.   “Julius theorized that the soul is not something that can ever be tangibly identified, but it exists as a series of relationships, patterns, vibrations, between different elements of a living creature’s DNA and RNA.”

“So Julius saw the origins of the soul to be the Earth itself.   The relationship between man and the Earth is integral to the existence of the soul.   In fact, Julius believed this was the basis for the immortality of the soul.”

But in Requiem‘s 22nd century world, this didn’t lead to the happy harmony of Pandora.  Instead, genetic engineering may have destroyed the soul, like changing the shape a musical instrument would destroy the music.  The thing is, even without genetic engineering, the human race hasn’t done such a good job of exploring its connectivity with Nature.  On the contrary, we’ve spent at least two thousand years pulling it apart.  In the novel, Julius founds a Humanist community, where a century later, Eusebio Franklin, the novel’s hero is born.  But the Humanists remain a small, isolated, group in an increasingly genetically-optimized, soulless world.

Avatar may be a lot of fun to watch, but I think part of its popularity arises from its vision of an easy techno-organic solution to our world’s problems.  Sorry guys, but Requiem doesn’t offer that solution.  It might, however, help you to see some of the real issues we face as we go hurtling through this century of climate change and unsustainable onslaught on our so-called natural resources… and as we pursue our intimations of immortality through genetic engineering.

March 31, 2010 Posted by | The Soul | , , , , , | Leave a comment